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Two Heftiest Stars Found in Milky Way
Discovery News ^ | 6/7/07 | Larry O'Hanlon

Posted on 06/08/2007 12:35:40 PM PDT by LibWhacker

June 7, 2007 — The two heaviest stars ever have been discovered in the southern Milky Way galaxy. The double super heavyweights are actually in orbit around each other, and both break the record — 83 times the sun’s mass — for the most massive stars found to date.

The heavier of the two weighs in at a whopping 114 "solar masses," while its little brother is 84 solar masses. The discovery was presented June 7 at the meeting of the Canadian Astronomical Society at the Royal Military College of Canada in Kingston, Ontario.

The two big bruiser stars, which form a binary system called A1, are not only large, they are quite young. This makes sense since it is the largest and brightest of stars that live the briefest, according to stellar theory.

"Their age is about a million years," said astronomer Anthony Moffat of the University of Montreal. They will probably not last beyond two or three million years, he said. Smaller stars like our sun, on the other hand, can burn for many billions of years.

It’s partly this short lifespan that makes these large stars so hard to find, said Robert Lamontagne, a University of Montreal astronomer who was not involved in the discovery.

To hunt down the biggest stars, astronomers need to look closely to the sites where stars are born – stellar clusters. The newfound massive double star system was found in a very dense, young star cluster called NGC 3603 using data from both the Hubble Space Telescope and the Very Large Telescope at the European Southern Observatory in South America. NGC 3603 is located about 20,000 light-years from Earth.

"Our sun was probably born in such a cluster," said Lamontagne, "but its brothers and sisters are spread out over the galaxy now." If there were any giants in our sun’s birth cluster, they died explosively long ago, he said.

What also made the new discovery possible was the fact that there were two stars involved, said Moffat. The interplay between the two provides plenty of data with which to calculate the masses of the stars, he explained. A lone giant would be much harder to weigh.

Another downside of the shorter lifespan of giant stars, from an astronomer’s point of view, is that they are completely outnumbered by their smaller, far older siblings.

"Typical stars are the mass of the sun or even smaller," said Lamontagne.

Large stars, though bright, make up perhaps five or ten percent of the stellar population. But that doesn’t mean the big stars are unimportant, he said. On the contrary, the giants are the factories that make the heaviest elements. Modest stars like our sun can only cook up elements as big as carbon — merely the sixth element out of more than two hundred and sixty.

Astronomers have theorized for years that stars should be able to reach masses of up to 150 times the sun. Beyond that size, the nuclear reactions are so powerful inside a star, they immediately overcome gravity and a star can’t hold together.


TOPICS: News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: found; heftiest; massive; milkyway; stars

1 posted on 06/08/2007 12:35:41 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

Hefty? Noooo! They’re just big boned!


2 posted on 06/08/2007 12:36:33 PM PDT by Reaganesque (Romney 2008)
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To: LibWhacker

Michael and Rosie?........


3 posted on 06/08/2007 12:37:06 PM PDT by Red Badger (Bite your tongue. It tastes a lot better than crow................)
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To: Reaganesque

Rosie O’Donnell and Michael Moore?


4 posted on 06/08/2007 12:37:31 PM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: SoCal Pubbie

Damn, you got to be fast here on FR.


5 posted on 06/08/2007 12:38:06 PM PDT by dfwgator (The University of Florida - Still Championship U)
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To: SoCal Pubbie

ooooh, beaten by 25 seconds.


6 posted on 06/08/2007 12:38:21 PM PDT by Tanniker Smith (I didn't know she was a Liberal when I married her.)
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To: Tanniker Smith
Yeah, but I left no doubt I wasn't taking about Michael Jackson and Rosie Perez.
7 posted on 06/08/2007 12:41:39 PM PDT by SoCal Pubbie
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To: LibWhacker
Dude, I was like, another Rosie O'Donnell thread?
8 posted on 06/08/2007 12:45:56 PM PDT by Titus Quinctius Cincinnatus (Run Fred RUN!)
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To: LibWhacker
"discovered in the southern Milky Way galaxy"

There's a North/South in our Galaxy? The Universe too?

9 posted on 06/08/2007 12:48:01 PM PDT by Deguello
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To: LibWhacker
merely the sixth element out of more than two hundred and sixty

Last I checked there were 117 discovered/synthesized elements. Where the heck did "more than 260" come from?

10 posted on 06/08/2007 12:49:15 PM PDT by Turbopilot (iumop ap!sdn w,I 'aw dlaH)
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"but its brothers and sisters are spread out over the galaxy now."

Hmmm... I wonder if there is any hope of ever being able to identify them?... Say, a thousand years from now when we have a complete census of all the stars in the Milky Way?

11 posted on 06/08/2007 12:51:29 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: Deguello

Yup, stay out of SE Milky Way. Bad neighborhood. ;-)


12 posted on 06/08/2007 12:54:15 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: Red Badger

LOLOL!!! took the words right outta my mouth!


13 posted on 06/08/2007 12:56:36 PM PDT by gimme1ibertee (Fred is here.....and now it'll be all right.)
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To: Turbopilot

Good catch. I don’t know... Are they including the anti-elements?


14 posted on 06/08/2007 12:57:04 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: LibWhacker

That certainly seems counter-intuitive. More “fuel” equals shorter life???? Hmmmmm.


15 posted on 06/08/2007 12:57:58 PM PDT by rednesss
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To: SoCal Pubbie

“..and both break the record — 83 times the sun’s mass — for the most massive stars found to date.”

....Yep,definitely Rosie and Michael.


16 posted on 06/08/2007 12:58:08 PM PDT by gimme1ibertee (Fred is here.....and now it'll be all right.)
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To: dfwgator

You sure do have to be fast! But anyway the sentiment got expressed, so all is not lost!


17 posted on 06/08/2007 1:02:02 PM PDT by twonie (Keep your guns - and stockpile ammo.)
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To: rednesss
That certainly seems counter-intuitive. More “fuel” equals shorter life???? Hmmmmm.

More fuel = burns much, much, much faster.

Although it is fission rather than fusion you can compare it to having some U-235. A little bit will just toss out some radiation and last for millions of years. Add more and it gets more radioactive as spontanious splitting of the atoms cause others to split which will use up the uranium faster. Add some more and it only lasts for a fraction of a second before it blows up.

18 posted on 06/08/2007 1:03:13 PM PDT by KarlInOhio (Parker v. DC: the best court decision of the year.)
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To: rednesss
That certainly seems counter-intuitive. More “fuel” equals shorter life???? Hmmmmm.

More fuel = more mass = bigger reaction = higher outward pressure countering gravitational force keeping the whole thing in a nice, neat ball and the furnace going. When that pressure overcomes the gravity, the outer shell is blown away, or the whole magillah starts expanding until equilibrium is reached again. Blast furnace needs more fuel than a campfire to keep going for the same amount of time.

19 posted on 06/08/2007 1:05:23 PM PDT by SlowBoat407 (It's never a good time to get sucked into an evil vortex.)
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To: LibWhacker

Rosie and late Momma Cass and a large sandwich orbiting around both.


20 posted on 06/08/2007 1:07:04 PM PDT by lexington minuteman 1775
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To: LibWhacker

Raymond Burr & William Conrad?


21 posted on 06/08/2007 1:07:16 PM PDT by Minutemen ("It's a Religion of Peace")
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To: LibWhacker

Teddy Kennedy’s moobs? (man boobs)


22 posted on 06/08/2007 1:08:20 PM PDT by ushr435
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To: rednesss

Yep, though they have a lot more hydrogen fuel to burn, they go through all of it much faster than a smaller star goes through its supply. Think top fuel dragster. Fifteen gallons of gas is enough for a small sedan to go 300 miles. But a top fuel dragster almost burns that much in a quarter mile.


23 posted on 06/08/2007 1:09:10 PM PDT by LibWhacker
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To: rednesss
More “fuel” equals shorter life????

It's only natural.

The more one eats the heavier one gets, the heavier one gets the more problems one gets, the more problems one gets the sooner one dies.
24 posted on 06/08/2007 1:17:02 PM PDT by adorno
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To: KarlInOhio

Fission and fusion are two different beasts. Fission requires the abundance, most of the time, of nice tranquil thermal neutrons and enough fissile material to reach criticality. But fusion as I understand it inside of a star, relies on gravitational pressures and the accompanying temps to bring two hydrogen atoms to such close proximity, overcoming the repulsive forces, and then bammo, a light helium atom a gamma ray and a little over 5 MeV of energy. The only thing that I can think of is that a bigger star has a bigger region inside with sufficient gravitational force to overcome the repulsive forces.


25 posted on 06/08/2007 1:21:23 PM PDT by rednesss
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To: adorno

Tell that to the elephant and the mouse. One lives for 70 years the other at most a couple of years.


26 posted on 06/08/2007 1:24:21 PM PDT by rednesss
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To: LibWhacker

Wait’ll the “little” one gets sucked into the big one. That’ll be one heckuva BANG!


27 posted on 06/08/2007 1:34:25 PM PDT by JimRed ("Hey, hey, Teddy K., how many girls did you drown today?" TERM LIMITS, NOW!)
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To: Deguello
There's a North/South in our Galaxy? The Universe too?

The "North" side of a planet, star, or galaxy is the side from which it appears to be spinning widdershins (counterclockwise). Haven't heard anything about North or South poles for the Universe.

28 posted on 06/08/2007 2:02:31 PM PDT by 3niner (War is one game where the home team always loses.)
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To: Turbopilot
Last I checked there were 117 discovered/synthesized elements. Where the heck did "more than 260" come from?

Well, there's this, but that still only gets us up to 218.

29 posted on 06/08/2007 2:06:23 PM PDT by 3niner (War is one game where the home team always loses.)
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To: rednesss
That certainly seems counter-intuitive. More “fuel” equals shorter life???? Hmmmmm.

It does seem "counter-intuitive", but the rate, at which the fuel "burns", goes up exponentially with increased stellar mass.

30 posted on 06/08/2007 2:10:24 PM PDT by 3niner (War is one game where the home team always loses.)
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To: LibWhacker
Vv cephei is 100 times the mass of our sun

How big is vv cephei? (Video)

31 posted on 06/08/2007 2:23:28 PM PDT by Steve Van Doorn (*in my best Eric cartman voice* 'I love you guys')
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To: LibWhacker

Sounds like they need to go on Atkins!


32 posted on 06/08/2007 2:48:54 PM PDT by Edward Watson (A liberal with a knife will always lose to a conservative with a gun)
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To: LibWhacker

Close up of NGC 3603.

33 posted on 06/08/2007 2:52:45 PM PDT by GATOR NAVY
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To: rednesss

There are a number of factors to take into account.

First, the more fuel in a star, the more massive it is. Both the temperature and size of a star are proportional to the mass. As it turns out, the brightness of a star (or rate of energy escape) is proportional to both the temperature (to the fourth power) and the diameter (squared), for a double whammy.

Second, the hotter stars undergo a different type of fusion (carbon-nitrogen-oxygen cycle) than the sun, and that type burns a little faster at higher temperatures.

There are also other factors like mean molecular weights and convective mixing that change the amount of fuel in a star that may be burned, again favoring a longer life for smaller stars.


34 posted on 06/13/2007 3:19:11 PM PDT by MikeD (We live in a world where babies are like velveteen rabbits that only become real if they are loved.)
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